District of Columbia

State government

The District of Columbia is the seat of the federal government and is home to the principal organs of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Both the US Senate and House have subcommittees (of the Appropriations Committees) to oversee federal spending within the District. The District's residents have only limited representation in the House, where an elected delegate may participate in discussions and votes on bills within the District of Columbia subcommittees but may not vote on measures on the floor of the House. The District has no representation in the Senate. In 1978 Congress approved an amendment to the US Constitution granting the District two US senators and at least one representative; however, the amendment failed to become law when it was not ratified by the necessary 38 state legislatures by August 1985 (by that time only 16 states had approved the amendment).

In 1982 elected delegates to a District of Columbia statehood convention drafted a constitution for the proposed State of New Columbia. The petition for statehood was approved by voters within the District and sent to Congress. But in 1993 Congress voted on and rejected District statehood by 63 votes (277 against, 153 for, and four not voting). The bill, which polls have shown has wide public support within the District, can be reintroduced.

The Council of the District of Columbia, the unicameral legislative body for the district, is comprised of 13 representatives who serve four-year terms. Council members must be district residents and qualified voters. Prior to 1973, the mayor and council members were appointed by the US president; since 1973, they have been elected by the District's voters. The body was given full legislative powers in 1974. The council meets every year, beginning in January. In 2002 the legislative salary was $92,500 per year.

Voters must be US citizens, at least 18 years old, residents of Washington, D.C. for at least 30 days prior to election day, and not able to claim the right to vote elsewhere. Restrictions apply to convicted felons and those declared mentally incompetent by the court.